Monday, August 14, 2023
Thursday, July 20, 2023
Sunday, June 11, 2023
Monday, May 29, 2023
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
A FEW THINGS BEFORE WE GET STARTED:
When I use a term like "all" don't want anyone to get the idea that stick/cymbal/drum/head companies have been beating down my door. Equipment companies have businesses to run (more on that later) and I reach a relatively small amount of people.
Even more importantly, my reasons for ending any exclusive relationships are mine and mine alone. I do not judge anyone else for what they're doing. Believe me, running my own life is difficult enough, let alone someone else's!
Part 1: Youthful dreams
When I first started playing, I would look at the pages of music magazines and see my heroes pictured with the sticks/heads/drums/cymbals of their choice and think, "That's what being a great musician is". I thought through talent and merit alone, these individuals earned their spot on the endorsee roster, and they had hot and cold running gear installed at their houses! So, my first motivation for getting an endorsement (besides the hot and cold running gear) was outside validation, especially because I wasn't getting any from within myself.
Part 2: The Way of the World
As I got a bit more experienced, I realized that artists rarely got gear for free, unless they were a megastar playing for thousands of people a night. Yet somehow, I thought that as a lone Canadian drummer playing mainly Jazz for a limited audience and teaching a handful of students, these companies should be giving me a key to their factories and an extra large shopping cart! This lead to some truly codependent behaviour around trying to get gear manufacturers to like me, and think that I was worthy. I went with one manufacturer purely because they pursued me (not a common occurrence, believe me) not because I was crazy about the gear, and certainly ended up regretting the decision. Later still, I started to realize that music companies are like any business, and that they are trying to make a profit and keep costs low. I don't reach enough people to make it worthwhile it invest much time or money in me, and I totally get that now.
Part 3: 10 cents a (drum) dance
I know a lot of people who have very strong allegiances to their drum/cymbal/etc. brand of choice. In fact a good friend that I went to university with has stayed with the same brand of drum that he was using almost 40 years ago! Although I remain happily monogamous in my personal life, in my drum life, I want to play the field! I would hate not to try something that looked/sounded interesting just because I stated I was playing another brand exclusively. I know some people work around this, especially some of the more famous "endorsees", but I feel it would be dishonest and inauthentic for me to do so. (See top of post.) Conversely…..
Part 4: The hear and now
I also feel at this point I can get my sound, for better or worse, out of whatever I'm playing. I like most drum and cymbals I hear, and lots of companies both big and small, make great gear. At this late stage in my career I don't want to have refrain from filming something I want to document because I don't have my "sponsored" gear there. I often play "drums du jour" as I never travel by air with drums anymore, and even try to avoid taking cymbals in that situation. As well, even with artist pricing, most equipment is super expensive, so I like the freedom of being able to shop for deals. I also think it's a very environmentally sound idea to buy used gear. Finally, I have found I actually enjoy the experience of going to my local brick and mortar music store, and buying as many or as few sticks as I want! It's no secret that actual music shops are really being hammered by the online market, and I like to support them, just as they did me when I was a young drummer.
Part 5: In conclusion
Finally, the biggest reason I wanted to stop endorsing anything exclusively is because IT WAS ALL A BIG PERSONAL EGO TRIP! It really had nothing to do with music, but rather that personal validation I mentioned earlier. I know that what I compose/play/record is beautiful and worthwhile, and that belief comes from within now. I realize that some folks need tour support etc. but as I stated before, they work in a very different end of the music biz street than I do. :) Thanks for reading my rant, and I look forward to the next time I play, where you can see me with a drum set made of 6 different manufacturer's wares, a united nations of cymbals, and each stick in my hand made in a different continent! :)
P.S. Trap'd is going into hibernation at this point, perhaps permanently. For new posts, see my Patreon page.
Monday, April 24, 2023
Although I try my best to break up my drumming exercise, opinion, and video posts, it's 2 in a row after last weeks Bill Bruford footage. This is the Who in '69 at their ferocious best. There is some missing video, although all the audio is present. We, unfortunately miss the historic moment when activist Abbie Hoffman interrupts the performance and gets a guitar in the head for his trouble! Moon sounds fantastic, and has me seriously considering a set up with no hi-hat and two bass drums! Enjoy….
Monday, April 17, 2023
Here's a great instructional video that Bill Bruford made in 1982. I remember hearing about it when it came out but I don't know if I would have gotten much out of it at the time. Now, however, I am very pleased with the many nuggets of wisdom contained within, as well as the beautiful solo Mr. Bruford plays at the beginning. Note: the tunes with King Crimson are muted for copyright reasons, but you have all those albums already, right? :) Enjoy!
Friday, April 14, 2023
Eventually I will be moving most of my posts to my Patreon site. It's only $5 a month and I promise you'll get a lot for that! I realize for those of you that prefer this free format it's a bit of a drag but let's face it, we're living in a material word and I'm a material girl/boy/whatever……..
Monday, April 10, 2023
This week I was playing around with this idea (and some variations)……
Monday, April 3, 2023
Independent coordination is a funny beast. One level of challenge is to play 2 or more rhythms simultaneously. Another challenge is to play differing accents or dynamic levels between limbs. The issue I want to deal with in this post is when the hands are moving to different drums or cymbals at contrary rates or distances.
Here's the first example, that I posted awhile back on Instagram. In it I'm dividing the Jazz Ride rhythm with the RH between the hi-hat and ride cymbal (ride cymbal on 2 & 4) and the LH is filling in the second and third triplet of every beat and moving surfaces every quarter note.
The great thing about moving our hands about is we can breathe new life into anything we play, simply by creating new combinations of tones and thusly, new drum melodies. Have fun!
Monday, March 27, 2023
It seems like a lot of what I see online involves what someone is doing, (e.g. the fastest, the loudest, etc.) rather than the how or why. Cue my good friend and Pianist/Journalist Peter Hum, who alerted me to this wonderful Tommy Flanagan recording Sea Changes, apparently the last one he made. Here's a great tune from it, the wonderful "Eclypso".
Monday, March 20, 2023
This is another one of those "Cautionary Tale/ Don't Be Like I Was" posts. :)
As most people who have heard me would surmise, I am fascinated with pulling as many colours out of the drum set as possible, and have devoted a fair amount of time to this. That's all well and good, but it's important to know when and where esoteric sounds fit the music. I remember one time a great trumpet player in Regina, Ron Brooks, telling me that I wasn't "minding the store". I'd like to say that I immediately took his comment to heart, and worked on being as solid, as I was being colourful, but I was young and foolish. (As a sidebar, let's all give thanks to the more experienced musicians in smaller communities all over the world that guide, encourage, and tolerate younger players!) It took me a long time to realize what he meant. Listening, as always, is key. Not only listening to great examples, of solid, groovy, and often deceptively simple playing, but also listening to the band that one is playing with. It's always good to ask yourself, "Is the band getting what it needs to do its job?" "Does the beat feel firm, or am I not giving the band confidence in the time?" I'm not suggesting anyone not to try to explore interesting sounds and shapes, but as with all things, balance and taste is the key.
Here's a great example of someone who really explored the drums, but never at the expense of groove and feel. Mr. Blakey!
Monday, March 13, 2023
As I've mentioned before, playing to recordings is the closest we can get to performing with actual live musicians. I make "playing along" a regular part of my practice, and I would like to share a few thoughts relating to that…...
1. Don't only play along to what you already do well.
This may seem obvious, but it's easy to get lured into exclusively playing with recordings with feels/tempos/forms that are comfortable. Stretch yourself! If speed is your thing, play along with slow tempos. If you usually play along with Country-Rock, learn a fusion tune etc. And more about forms….
2. Try to play with whole tunes rather than loops.
I've mentioned this before, and I don't want to step on anyone's toes around this, but I feel playing with loops never gives us the whole story. By loops I mean just taking a small section of an already existing tune and have it playing endlessly. When we do this we miss out on a lot of form. Not only the structure of the tune (AABA, 12 Bar Blues etc.) but the form of the whole performance. How do we differentiate between sections of the song like in head to solos, different solos, and last solo to out head? Does the tempo of the tune change from beginning to end? What about the relative volume of the drums at differing sections of the tune? These are important issues!
3. Try to play with contained passion.
By this I mean, always remember when you're playing with recordings your first job is to keep in sync. Your second job is to outline the shape of the tune ( see above ). It's very easy to play loud enough that you drown out the recording and get out of time. It's also easy to focus on the spectacular drumming of whoever is on the original recording and not pay attention to the form soloists etc. Additionally, getting the intensity required for the performance with less volume is a great thing to strive for.
4. Do not obsess about details
I mentioned this briefly in #3. Especially when playing with Jazz recordings, try to get the essence of the performance rather than the minutia. The feel, relative mix of your four limbs, and structural elements (see #2) are more important than playing EXACTLY what has been played. If you like, go ahead and learn exactly what was played, but realize that's a separate endeavour.
5. Play along to quantized and unquantized material.
Definitely work with material that was created with a click track, sequencers, or drum machines. In fact the art to playing loosely along with music that has some sort of machine keeping the tempo exactly the same is challenging indeed. Steve Jordan, Phil Collins, and JR Robinson are some of the players that have mastered this approach.
However, playing music that was recorded "without a net", which basically means any recordings before the 1970s, requires us to "ride the wave" of the time. When humans play music without an artificial timekeeper like a metronome, there are all sorts of little micro peaks and valleys in the time. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact this is what gives a lot of music its humanity. Even recordings that noticeably speed up or slow down are okay to play along with, as long as we're aware of this and it isn't the only way we work on keeping time.
In conclusion, let's listen to Elvin Jones on Wayne Shorter's Night Dreamer where Mr. Jones manages to keep his lovely laid back feel even though the tune also speeds up! It almost seems like he's defying gravity, but this is just one of the many things we love about Elvin! :)
Friday, March 10, 2023
The Avi Granite 6 just completed a run of shows to support the newly released recording "Operator".
We had a great time and the band's sound continues to evolve.
Avi is great at finding interesting ways to promote his music, so here's a short interview with me discussing the project.
Monday, March 6, 2023
So, recently I heard a great Pipe and Drum band here in Guelph. I just loved how lightly and fleetly they played. Also what was interesting was that even though the instrumentation was only the pipes, bass, tenor and snare drum, it was a very full and complete sound. Even more interestingly, because all the tonality was over a drone (sounded like C to me) it almost sounded like the bass and tenor drums were tuned to that pitch. Any Pipe band people who can clarify this for me?
Anyway, this experience got me thinking of other drum systems "across the pond" and I started fooling around with Swiss Army Triplets (RRL or LLR with a flam at the beginning.) I combined this with a 3-5-7-9 grouping exercise I borrowed from guitar great Reg Schwager and came up with this…..
Saturday, March 4, 2023
Monday, February 27, 2023
Here's another straight vs. swung brush pattern, very creatively named, "Straight Vs. Swung #2"!
No, please, we must continue……….
In both versions I filmed (one on the snare, and the other one divided between the toms) the right hand is sweeping straight 8ths, the downbeats heading to the right and away from us, the brush on the head the whole time. The left hand is also constantly on the drum and is making clockwise circles in the "Jazz quarter note triplet" rhythm.
Saturday, February 25, 2023
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Monday, February 20, 2023
The other day I was watching another instalment of John Christopher's great interview show, Live From My Drum Room, this episode was with Clem Burke. ( See below.)
Monday, February 13, 2023
The current population of Sydney Australia is about 5 million people, which may seem like a lot, but the current world population is 8 billion. What does this have to do with these wise words from Mr. Big Foot? Well, current estimates tell us that there are approximately 5 million drummers in the world. Again, that may seem like a large number but it actually accounts of only 0.06% of the world's population, like Sydney compares to the rest of the world. In other words, individuals like us that can create magic with 2 pieces of lumber and make inanimate circles of wood and metal sing are quite rare indeed. You are special and what you do is unique and needed in the world. Keep at it! :)
Monday, February 6, 2023
Monday, January 30, 2023
I recently played a couple of wonderful nights with Peter Hum's quartet at the Rex, and Kenji Omae, our great Tenor Sax player, filmed one of Peter's new compositions, Radical Acceptance. I thought I would post a chart of the composition as well as the video and I would go through how I approached playing this tune.
Here's the PDF
Probably the most important thing to mention is the form.It's quite interesting because on the in head the from is ABCD and then E is Tenor and Guitar trading over the solo chord changes. Then when they cue us we play the tune in the reverse order (DCBA) and ends with the piano vamp it starts with. So it's got this great construction that I would liken to a flower that opens in the morning, blooms all day, and then closes its petals at the end of the day. The fact that I'm referring to a composition this way may sound "flowery" , but I often find imagery can help me conceptualize a piece and figure out how to approach it. So basically, I was trying to grow and build the piece all the way to the end of the solo section at E and then gradually bring it back down to where it started.
As I stated, the piece starts with solo piano playing a rhythmic vamp. I basically tried to incorporate and riff around that rhythm into the groove I was playing. It also felt like I should generally play all the 8th notes in the bar with my right hand, to give it some drive. Also, on reflection, it sounds a little far on top of the beat for my taste, but it least it feels exciting!
This generally goes well. Then we get to D. During that section (with the 3 bar phrases) Peter wanted it to have a little more space. I am also generally filling in the 3rd measure of all those phrases. Then I make my first error! I missed the repeat at D and went back to more of a groove again the 2nd time. But I played the figures as well and I don't think anyone was the wiser, although it made letter D slightly less effective. (I assure you, these sort of things happen all the time. The trick is to cover for them as smoothly as possible.)
Then we go on to E which has tenor and guitar playing the melody before they start trading phrases over the same chords for the solo section. I bring the volume and density down into this section to give some room for it to grow. I start off the solo section relatively quiet and playing mainly short sounds and avoid cymbals to create more space for the tenor and guitar. At around 2:22 I go back to the groove I was playing at the beginning but with the intend of gradually getting busier and louder as the solos go on. Shortly after this I turn the snares on the snare drum (for the first time in this tune) to further build the energy. As the solo section goes on, I'm filling more and playing more soloistically, even as I am still listening to the tenor/guitar and supporting them with the groove. Eventually, I settle into a bit of a pseudo-backbeat sort of thing, (around 3:30) because it feels like a good way to add energy and drama. As the trades get shorter I'm also trying to keep building. With soloists this strong, it's easy to "run out of gas" chops-wise, so it's good to take one's time building volume and density. At around 5:16, I mistakenly think letter D has been cued, when it's actually the ensemble section at letter E instead. Again, I adjust and move on. Nobody's perfect! :) When we do get to letter D, my volume has already dropped somewhat, as I'm trying to take us back to the sparse quite sound we had at the top of the tune. I then go back to my original groove and keep bringing it down by going to the hi-hat, also keeping the backbeat on the cross stick to keep the urgency up while still coming down dynamically, finally going to the side of the cymbal with the right hand to bring it down even more to the end.
I hope you find this helpful. It's great to get a chance to interpret someone's original music. It often can be less intimidating than playing standard tunes that have been played spectacularly by geniuses many times! :) Feel free to try multiple ways of interpreting a tune. There are always options and it sometimes may take a bit of trial and error to find the way that works for you. As always, have fun and be good to yourselves. :)
Monday, January 23, 2023
Really the title of this post is just a swanky way of categorizing a brush technique where the brush is "rolled" on the drum with the palm of the hand. I've used this idea before but I'm trying to put it in a few more contexts, as shown below……
1. This is a beat with the RH rolling the brush and the LH playing the skip beat of the standard jazz ride rhythm in a clockwise circle.
Monday, January 16, 2023
Many may not agree with me here, but I feel one advantage horn players have over guitarists, pianists, and drummers is that it is very difficult, if not impossible to play more than a note at a time.. As a result, people who play these instruments get very good at implying harmony through their choice of notes in a line. But pianists and drummers can play very thickly, and tend to get obsessed with layering of notes and rhythms. I am guilty of this on both these instruments!
I was doing a grant application and was going through some video of my band from about a year ago. The performances were good but I felt myself saying , "Well, that's a lot of drums, but what does it mean?" and " There seems to be a lot of the same texture of sound throughout this performance". So, I have been thinking about and experimenting with playing a lot less at times, and making sure there are sparse textures as well as thick ones. I find myself finding this issue with other players as well. It seems to be the hip thing these days to crowd as much drums and cymbals as possible into the music, and I'm getting a little sick of it, to be frank.
Here's a great example of a mainly melodic rather than harmonic solo from the great Shelly Manne. Enjoy!
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
Here's footage of the tune "Good Deal" from the upcoming Avi Granite 6 album "Operator". We're also doing a Canadian tour in February/March.
Monday, January 9, 2023
There is a lot of mythology surrounding instrumentalist's practice. I recall reading about legendary players and their infamous practice regimes, and thinking that I had to get into that "8 hours a day, for a start" vibe, otherwise I wasn't going to amount to anything! Truth be told, I have never gotten past about 4 hours at a stretch, or 6 in a day with breaks. I also find a lot of people overestimate or underestimate the amount they put in on their instrument. Played along with music for an hour today? As long as you were aware etc. while you were doing it, I would count that as practice! Staring at a hole in your shoe during hour 10 through 11 of your daily routine? I would contend there may be better ways to spend your time. In fact, the level of engagement, rather than amount of time, is how I currently gage my practice time. For the past 10 years or so, it's a rare day I get beyond an hour of practice, and currently a lot of my sessions are a half hour long. Yet I still feel like I've made a lot of progress. Why?
1. I do practice almost every single day
Even though the individual sessions are quite short, I find I give my body and mind a lot of chances to process the information.
2. I tend to review what I last did
As well, the last thing I worked tends to lay the groundwork for the next thing I do. It's almost like a lifetime of thematic playing!
3. I don't practice too many things
Often a practice session will be around a single idea or issue
Finally, it's important to realize that one's practice routine evolves over the course of one's life. This current routine I have would probably not be enough for an intermediate or college level player. There's simply too many things to learn and do, and most players at this age haven't even figured out what type of player they'll eventually be. I.E. I don't spend a lot of time working double bass drum chops or stick twirling, and that's entirely a conscious decision! So when figuring out how to practice, look at where you're at and what you need, and don't be afraid to tweak it if you're not finding it effective.
Monday, January 2, 2023
I think I've mentioned this before, but I still spend time looking for new sounds, colours, and techniques at the drums. At the stage demonstrated below I'm not looking at what to do with the things I find. In fact, some of them I never find a practical use for. That doesn't concern me though. I also am not trying to make this smooth or palatable or any sort of "performance". The journey is the goal. Here's some video of me trying a few things out…..